Q) Afghanistan is a litmus test for India's for ascendance as a regional and global power. Discuss. (250 Words)
Asked in UPSC CSE(M) 2014 - GS 2 for 200 words
GS 2: IR
Introduction: Afghanistan has been a keystone in India's central Asia policy. However, with the risk of overthrowing of the democracy in Afghanistan has put all of Indian endeavours such as connectivity and infrastructure projects of the recent times at risk of being of no strategic value, which can be a great setback for India.
Importance of Afghanistan for India:
• Protecting Indian investment in Afghanistan: India has invested heavily in major projects like various hydropower projects(Salma Dam), connectivity projects(road from Daleram to Zaranj) etc.
• Diplomatic Advantage: Afghanistan is a key ally which gives India a strategic advantage over Pakistan in areas such as intelligence gathering.
• Geo-strategic importance of Afghanistan: Afghanistan lies at the cross-road of civilizations housing important trade routes and strategic military locations. In the recent times, China wants control of Afghanistan for its Belt and Road Project. India and Russia are keen on connecting it with North-South Economic corridor.
• Countering Terrorism in the region: Afghanistan can be used as a fertile ground for the export terrorism into India, thus India is a key stakeholder in the process.
• Migrant Crisis: As in the past every new instability in Afghanistan breeds a new wave of migrant crisis.
• Drug peddling: Afghanistan forms a part of Golden crescent and is a source of drugs that infiltrate illegally into India.
Thus, losing Afghanistan can be a strategic loss for India and preventing this would be a great test of Indian strength.
Test of Regional Power:
• Testing ability to gather regional support: India, along with various nations like Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and who are worried about the situation emerging in Afghanistan, can be strong partners if India takes a lead in shaping resolutions in the region.
• Ability to iron out differences with partners in the region for common cause: For example India has developed differences with Iran on certain matters such as US led sanctions and speed of construction projects. This has to be ironed out for a larger common cause.
• Test of tactical abilities of India against Pakistan: It will test our ability to bring out evidence against Pak-sponsored terrorism.
• Supress separatism within India: We would have to control terrorism within India particularly in Kashmir and engage with all dissidents from taking up arms against India.
Test of Global power:
• Test of India's soft power: It would test our ability to sway global viewpoint against the risks arising out of the situation. This would require countering Pakistani propaganda and advertisement of human right violation under Talibani regime.
• Test of India's realpolitik understanding: India might have to engage with uneasy partners like Taliban and Pakistan in negotiations.
• Global messaging: Further Taliban has warned India to keep out of the situation. India would have to give a bold response to a rouge organization.
• Test of India's economic might: In terms of supporting the cash-strapped Afghan government and supply of arms.
• Test of Diplomatic power: It is in the interest of major global powers like Russia, US and the European nations that peace prevails after the exit from Afghanistan. It would take a great diplomatic effort to reach out to all the global and regional power to shape a consensus to support Afghanistan
• Recognition as a global power: Participation in the peace process and subsequent conflict, if that fails, is important for the recognition of India's efforts in Afghanistan. It would boost India's position as key democratic development partner in the world.
Conclusion: India's fundamental concern is to not allow Afghanistan to be used as a ground to breed Jihadis against Indian state again like it were used in period after 1996 takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. Thus the repeat of history cannot be allowed. India's ability to control this would mark India as a serious regional and global power in the world stage.